CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the mid-18th century, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, like all good rebellious children, decided to break away from the style and tradition of his father – composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Some might argue that it was a foolish move, considering that C.P.E. Bach has always lingered under the long shadow cast by his legendary father.
But others, including the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn, saw the son as the true innovator who brought something new to the musical world. Mozart even famously said that the younger Bach “is the father, we are the children.”
“C.P.E. Bach was a pivotal figure who moved music in a completely different direction, championing emotion with his shocking harmonies,” Gregory Wolynec, Austin Peay State University associate professor of music, said. “He’s frequently ignored as a transitional figure between Bach and Mozart and Haydn. But Mozart and Haydn considered him a master composer.”
The neglected status of this remarkable composer makes him a perfect candidate to have his works performed by Clarksville’s Grammy-nominated Gateway Chamber Orchestra.
“We are always looking for works or composers, or both, that history hasn’t treated as fairly,” Wolynec, who is also the ensemble’s conductor, said.
The orchestra will present the early symphonies by C.P.E. Bach in a new concert, “Contrasting Lines,” at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 26, in the APSU Music/Mass Communication Building’s Concert Hall. The performance, which opens the orchestra’s 2011-12 subscription season, will also feature works by Johann Sebastian Bach and by American composer Steve Reich.
“This first performance really helps set the tone for the approach we have to programming, which is essentially a three-legged stool,” Wolynec said. “We have established masterworks, we have works or composers that history may have missed that we think deserve to be championed, and last, but certainly not least, we have American masterworks by contemporary composers.”
The Sept. 26 performance will include a pair of established masterworks – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto I and II. Those compositions are considered cornerstones of the Baroque period and will be familiar to most concertgoers.
“We’re hoping to offer a fresh perspective on these masterworks,” Wolynec said.
Those works will be contrasted with the more obscure, early symphonies of his son, C.P.E. Bach. The pieces represent a break from the Baroque style, with their expressive sounds and emphasis on emotion.
“There will be only a handful of performances of those symphonies around the world this year,” Wolynec said. “They simply don’t have a natural home.”
The concert will also feature American composer Reich’s minimalist work, “Eight Lines.” The piece, composed in the late 1970s, pays tribute to the elder Bach’s works.
“Reich’s works move sort of like a kaleidoscope – lots of repetition with subtle changes,” Wolynec said. “The kaleidoscope gradually shifts color and form, but in a way that audience members and performers almost don’t know that it’s happening. So it has a real hypnotic effect.”
The Gateway Chamber Orchestra, made up of area musicians and APSU music faculty members, formed in 2008, and the ensemble quickly earned a national reputation through its innovative concerts and the release of a critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated CD, “Wind Serenades.” In 2010, Fanfare Magazine, a leading classical music publication, praised the CD as having the definitive versions of Mozart’s “Wind Serenade in B flat” and Richard Strauss’s “Wind Serenade in E flat.”
The orchestra is currently finishing up a new CD, “Chamber Symphonies,” featuring works by Schreker, Enescu and Schoenberg. And this year promises to be another strong season for the ensemble, with concerts such as “Wind Serenades IV” on Nov. 7, “Pastoral Soundscapes” on Jan. 30 and “Pocket-Sized Symphonies” on April 23.
Tickets for a single performance, including the Sept. 26 “Contrasting Lines” concert, are $15 for adults, $10 for students or military and $30 for a family of four. Season tickets are $50 for adults, $30 for students and $110 for a family of four.
For more information about the Gateway Chamber Orchestra, including upcoming musical performances, visit the group’s website, www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com.
- Charles Booth